“Sometimes we would prefer to die for Jesus than to live for him. If someone had the power to kill us for our profession of faith, I imagine that most Christians would say, ‘Yes, I am a believer in Jesus Christ,’ even if it meant death. The threat of torture might make people think twice, but I think most Christians would acknowledge Christ. However, if making a decision for Jesus means that we might spend years being unpopular, ignored, poor, or criticized, then there are masses of Christians who temporarily put their faith on the shelf. ‘Death is not imminent, so why hurry into such a rash decision?’ ‘There will be time later to get things straight with God.’ In other words, kill me, but don’t keep me from being liked, appreciated, or respected.”- Edward Welch, When People are Big and God is Small, 39.
“The servant girl said to Peter, ‘You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter was also with them, standing and warming himself.”- John 18:17-18.
Ed Welch hits on an important topic. It’s the topic of Fear. No, not “aghh! Godzilla is attacking-fear” but a more subtle, not easily detected fear that controls our actions and tweaks our responses in various situations. We all, in a measure, change our actions to be better liked, better accepted, and better praised by the people around us. I am convinced that this issue manipulates us all to some degree and plays a role in how we maneuver through life. Many of us will own Christ in the sanctuary, when everyone is owning him and everyone is confessing Him, but will shrink back into the shadows when the time comes to be a disciple in a tough situation, in a situation where we may be mocked for choosing Christ. The truth is we often believe that true worth, true value, and true identity come in being accepted by those around us. That’s why it is so tempting to live for the praises of the crowd at the football stadium, or to sit in the stands and wish you were the one making the touchdown. That’s why it’s so tempting to keep our mouth shut when we know we need to share the great news of Christ to a friend who isn’t a believer. Maybe we still don’t understand. What if you saw this man on the side of the road.
Our first instinct is to either walk faster, press on the gas, or hope the traffic light changes green before he walks up to our window. I’ve been there. This isn’t a post to make anyone feel guilty for not stopping to help, or is it? It isn’t. It also isn’t a post to examine the ways we may effectively help these people. But the truth remains; we don’t want people to see us hanging out with these certain types of individuals. We fear the opinions of others. In a measure, we worship them. The fear is real, and it’s difficult to escape. And if anyone thinks they are above living for the praise of men, living for the value that comes with being liked and accepted, take a look at Peter, the Super Christian. He denies his Christ because of a servant girl. Now, i understand that Jesus has been arrested, and Peter knows that if he identifies himself with Christ, his life is at stake as well. But he still tweaks his actions. He still fears people. In a way, Peter chooses the crowd and the servant girl as his functional saviors, even though in his head, he knows the truth. Christians know the truth, but we oftentimes allow ourselves to be drawn in to making functional saviors out of people. And then, when the ruckus calms down, we can stand by their fires, warming ourselves as Peter does. The only way to undo the fear is to identify the areas where the fear of man has captivated us and then repent and believe in the truth, daily. It is to preach to ourselves, to pray for relief, and to pray that God would change us. And then we are to have patience, a lot of patience, not with others, but with God as He changes us. Christ is faithful, and He will change us by His Spirit. He is good, He is the source of salvation, He gives us true worth and value per our adoption into His family, and He reigns supreme. Let us remember Psalm 146…
Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD, O my soul!
I will praise the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD his God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets the prisoners free;
the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
the LORD loves the righteous.
The LORD watches over the sojourners;
he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
The LORD will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the LORD!